ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – Washington University researchers are trying to assess how traits of autism may pass through our genes.

Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine are recruiting women who had at least one child with autism, and who now have grandchildren, to see how risk for the disorder may be passed through the generations.

The study, led by child psychiatrist Natasha Marrus, will involve 500 grandmothers.

“We’re curious to see what is the prevalence of autism in that next generation, so that we can better understand how to support families,” Murrus says. “So that they understand the risk that might be there.”

She says although there are some environmental risk factors, autism spectrum disorder mainly is inherited.

“There is a strong genetic basis for autism. This isn’t to say that the environment doesn’t matter,” Marrus says. “But a lot of what contributes to autism is thought to be in genes, which therefore means it can run in families.”

Marrus says a key question they hope to answer is whether girls carry a genetic susceptibility to autism even when they don’t have symptoms themselves.

Any findings, she says, could help with diagnosis of the disorder as well as treatments.

(TM and Copyright 2016 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2016 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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